KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Flight MH370 had sent a series of “pings” or electronic pulses, with the last transmitted from a location over water at a cruising altitude, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported today as searchers cast their eyes further west towards the Indian Ocean in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) passenger plane.
Citing several unnamed US military and space industry officials who had been briefed on the investigation, the US daily reported that the satellites had also received speed and altitude information about the aircraft from the five or six “pings” before the pulses disappeared, which the experts believe could help them decipher its route and location.
But the people involved in the matter had declined to divulge the specific flight path the plane had transmitted, WSJ reported.
According to the report, an industry official said it was possible that the system sending them had been turned off by someone onboard the plane.
The report follows new evidence showing the Boeing 777-200 jumbo jet carrying 239 people had continued its flight hours after it supposedly left radar detection.
This latest data conflicts, however, with claims just yesterday evening from Malaysian authorities who had disputed reports in the Wall Street Journal that had pointed to the same possibility.
The US navy, which has been roped in to help Malaysia search for the missing aircraft east of Peninsular Malaysia from where it vanished without a trace on March 8, had now turned its sights west towards the Indian Ocean.
WSJ’s report had pointed to data allegedly transmitted from the Boeing 777’s Rolls Royce engines, which was described as “inaccurate” by acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and confirmed by both the engine manufacturer Rolls Royce and Boeing Co.
The international business newspaper has since corrected its report, however, admitting it had wrongly cited US investigators as basing their suspicions on signals from the plane’s Rolls Royce engines.
According to the paper, suspicions that MH370 stayed airborne for several hours had been based on an analysis of signals sent through the plane’s satellite communication (SATCOM) link.
WSJ cited people familiar with the matter as explaining that the SATCOM is designed to automatically transmit the status of onboard systems.
Lending more credence to the WSJ and Reuters reports is fresh information from US officials this morning that there is an “indication” pointing to the possibility that the Malaysia Airlines flight had gone down in the Indian Ocean, which is hundreds of miles off-course the aircraft’s original flight plan.
“We have an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean,” a senior Pentagon official told ABC News.
The official added there were indications that the plane flew four or five hours after disappearing from radar and that they believe it went into the water.
The plane was last spotted on radar at 1.30am on Saturday morning, about 120 nautical miles off the coast of Kota Baru which lies on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, near the South China Sea.
The Indian Ocean is far to the west of Malaysia.
For MH370 to reach that location, it would have had to fly several hours past 1.30am when it went missing. The aircraft, according to MAS, was carrying enough fuel to fly up to 8.30am that morning.
Rescue and intelligence officials are still verifying the credibility of the latest data received while search vessels head towards the Indian Ocean to continue their hunt for the aircraft there.
The Pentagon official reportedly said that the USS Kidd was being moved at the request of Malaysia and is heading towards an area where the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea meet. It has helicopters aboard that can scour the area.
It should take more than 24 hours for the vessel to reach that location.
Vessels from India are also understood to be heading to the area to search for MH370.
As such, the new data has remained somewhat inconclusive for now, as have many other theories and information that have emerged on the mysterious disappearance of MH370 over the past seven days.
MH370 left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 12.41am on Saturday morning. The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 239 people, including 12 flight crew members and two infants.